111-yr-old Matheran ‘toy’ train chugs on with upgraded braking system and engine
A major attraction among vacationers, especially from Mumbai and Pune, this train was re-launched in Janaury 2018 and now, no longer requires ‘brake porters’ in each bogie to apply the brakes.pune Updated: Apr 09, 2018 11:37 IST
The 111-year-old Neral Matheran ‘toy’ train, a major tourist attraction, which chugs 21 km from Neral in Raigad district to the Matheran hill station now has upgraded brakes and a modified engine, no longer requiring ‘brake porters’ in each bogie to manually apply the brakes. The improved toy train comes with greater safety and a smoother ride. (Pratham Gokhale / HT Photo)
The 111-year-old Neral Matheran ‘toy’ train which chugs 21 km from Neral in Raigad district to the Matheran hill station now has upgraded brakes and a modified engine.
A major attraction among vacationers, especially from Mumbai and Pune, this train was re-launched in Janaury 2018 and now, no longer requires ‘brake porters’ in each bogie to apply the brakes.
As Manikam Anthony, the engine driver explained, “Earlier we had to rely on the brake porters in each bogie to apply brakes manually. Now, I can operate the brakes from the engine itself. This has helped save time and ensure safety too. Better technology has helped smoothen the ride.”
The 55-year-old loco pilot who was readying the engine for the 9 am ride from Neral Railway Station to Matheran said, “After the relaunch, things have been easier, as we have a modified engine and brake system.”
The upgradation has helped provide better checks on the air pressure, oiling points and sand content on the tracks.
The train has six bogies, three of second class, one of first class, one guard section and one general coach with a sitting capacity of 120 seats.
. The train signal patten still operates on the token ball method, meaning that the token machine is attached to a phone, which provides updates on the track condition.
“A token is brought out right before the departure that explains the track availability. If the token is up to Jummapatti, then the next will be issued at Water Pipe station.” Points man Janardhan hands over the token to the loco pilot Anthony.
The Neral-Matheran Light Railway also known as Phul Rani was started in 1907, with the help oflate Abdul Hussein Adamjee Peerbhoy. The first train from Neral to Matheran is at 6.40am daily, reaches Matheran at 9.40. It leaves to come back to Neral at 3.40pm and reaches by 6.25pm. Madhuri More, Assistant station manager, Neral Railway Station shared,“We see maximum crowd on weekends. Vacationers keep enquiring for more trains as right now on a daily basis just one train goes upward. An additional train at 9am only on Friday was introduced a few weeks ago. There are talks and discussions to increase the frequency of the trains.”
Chief booking supervisor, Shivaji Shedge shared,“The season is primarily from April to June, the trains are not operational from June 16 to October 15. The first train that leaves Neral is further used as a shuttle service between Aman lodge Station and Matheran. We have two operational trains to ply everyday.”
For Tasneem Badshah, 25, the‘Toy Train’ was a mystery till she saw it for the first time on Friday. Tasneem who hails from Madhya Pradesh, has come down to Maharashtra with five other friends especially to experience the train journey.“We had a heard a lot about the toy train and wanted to experience it. We were pleasantly surprised how such a small and compact vehicle makes the 21-km journey uphill. I am glad I made this trip,” says Tasneem.
For Nalasopara couple Praful-Sweety Dedhia and their 2-year-old son Diyaan, the train journey has been exciting. Praful said,“The windows are large which makes it easy to view the valley on the side. The journey is picturesque and worth the time. The ticket rates are also nominal, however I feel fans in the bogies will help.”
Better frequency and more trains
Jayesh Shah, a chartered accountant by profession has been visiting Matheran on and off for vacations for the past 30 years. He shared,“This is an excellent service and saves us the pain of haggling with cabd and horse riders. However, a few more trains will help. Also, the train timings on the internet are wrong thus causing confusion among passengers. Other than these issues it is a pleasant service.”
Aruna Durge has got along Rutuja, her four year old daughter to relive her childhood memories of the toy train.“My parents brought me on the toy train when I was a child. I wanted my daughter to experience the same. The route is the same, the maintenance is great and above all the staff on the train is helpful and approachable.”
Despite the new technology, the train still has brake porters in each bogie, who ensure that no one is standing, leaning or forcing pressure on one side of the bogie. Station manager, GS Meena, Matheran Railway Station shared,“We are working on the tracks and replacing them, it is a continuous and ongoing process. We have also put up safety barriers around dangerous turns and potential accident spots. We are looking at increasing the services too. There are reports of a dining car, however, I don't have much information on it.”